Bath rely on player power to solve crisis

Senior team members will police squad behaviour after repeated off-field problems
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The Independent Online

Bath are taking steps to ensure that there will be no repeat of the scandal which has enveloped the club by appointing their own internal police force after three of their players were handed lengthy suspensions for refusing to take drugs tests.

It can be said that 2009 has been an annus horribilis for the West Country club: this week three players, Michael Lipman, Alex Crockett and Andrew Higgins, were banned for nine months for refusing to take a drugs test; a fortnight ago former Wallaby lock Justin Harrison was given an eight-month ban, while in February England prop Matt Stevens was barred from playing for two years after being found guilty of cocaine abuse.

The club has had enough and now five senior players, Danny Grewcock, David Barnes, David Flatman, Joe Maddock and Stuart Hooper, have been elected by the Bath squad as the club's private "police force", charged in part with overseeing player discipline and making sure that standards of proper behaviour are met by all concerned.

England prop Barnes explained: "We've been elected by the playing group. We haven't been put up to this by the management. I don't believe a massive drugs problem has suddenly arisen in rugby, but illicit drugs are available in society and it would be naive to think that no rugby player in the country is touching them."

Grewcock said: "We don't want to react to issues, but to prevent them developing. We train together, play together and look after each other on the field. It's important that we understand the value of looking after each other off the field."

Another member of "The Force", Flatman added: "We want to have fun off the field and be successful on it, but we are determined to ensure that things are done in the right way.

"The club is the subject of horrible accusations and having its name dragged through the mud, it would be selfish of us as players not to feel offended by it, and not to feel responsible. The Bath club will be here long after we've gone, but we're the ones here now and it's up to us to make it better by being the best people we can be.

"Do I feel let down by the players who have left the club? No. Do I think there's a drug culture here? No. Is a 19-year-old player going to become a drug addict while he's at this club? No, that's not going to happen."

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